Mental Health Week: How WoodGreen’s Walk-in Counselling Program fills a community need
May 3-9, 2021 is Mental Health Week — a week to celebrate, protect, and promote mental health. And more than ever, it is so important for all of us to take care of our mental health and wellbeing.
For many people, their mental health has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the past year, there have been numerous stories in the media about increased rates of depression and anxiety amongst Canadians — thanks to the pandemic. These stories highlight the need and importance of affordable and easy to access mental health programs in our community.
One such program is WoodGreen’s Walk-in Counselling Program. We recently chatted with Becca Kellner, a registered social worker and supervisor of the program, about how it works and why it is so critical to the community.
Q: How long have you worked at the Walk-in Counselling Program? How did you first get involved?
Becca: I’ve worked at the Walk-In as the Supervisor since November 2019. I got started as a volunteer clinician in the summer of 2017 after completing my MSW, with the hopes of working with other clinicians and supporting folks from various demographics. I volunteered frequently and loved the program from my very first shadowing shift. It is wonderful to have come full-circle and to be able to support the clinicians and the clients in my current role.
Q: How does the service work? What sort of support do you offer people?
Becca: We provide free, low-barrier, single-session counselling. The service operates every Tuesday and Wednesday evening and individuals, couples, or families can call our intake line to request an appointment for that same day.
Q: How many volunteers do you have and what are their professional backgrounds?
Becca: We have over 70 clinicians involved with the Walk-In program — some supporting more frequently than others. The clinicians are primarily volunteers, some staff, and students. All the clinicians are trained and part of a registered body (such as the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers or the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario) or in the process of becoming registered.
Q: Why is the Walk-in Counselling Program important? Especially now, during the pandemic?
Becca: Accessing therapy can be challenging at any time, not just in a pandemic. There are often many barriers that limit people’s accessibility to services, such as stigma, long waitlists, demographic/catchment requirements, mobility issues, and availability. The Walk-In Program (and current virtual Walk-In) eliminates many of these barriers. It’s free, and there are no waitlists (it’s first come, first served). We can see individuals, couples, or families and we are anchored in a client-centered approach, always making our best efforts to meet the client where they’re at. We offer our services via telephone so you don’t need a smart device or access to the internet. Finally, it is immediate — so you can get help the same day that you need it.
Q: What do clients have to say about the program?
Becca: Here is some anonymous feedback that we’ve received:
“I realized that I felt much lighter after the break – literally like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. My concerns were really addressed and I got a new perspective.”
“I have been unable to find or afford a therapist – Thank you so much for providing such a valuable, supportive service.”
“Having someone there to listen without judgement. Even though it was difficult to share at first I was glad there was someone there to listen.”
Q: How can people contact the program?
Becca: People can call 416-645-6000 ext. 1990 on Tuesday and Wednesday for a session. There is also more information on our website.